Complete seven-round mock draft for the Houston Texans following the conclusion to their season and looking at the 2017 NFL Draft.
After going 9-7 for the third straight season, and winning the AFC South for the second-straight, the Houston Texans are looking to take their next step. 2015 ended with a beatdown at the hands of the Kansas City Chiefs in the Wild Card round. 2016 had more success they defeated the Oakland Raiders in that same round before dropping their Divisional Round game to the New England Patriots.
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Looking forward to 2017, there is a lot that can be fixed. The biggest question will revolve around their quarterback. Brock Osweiler was signed this past offseason to end the revolving door at the position, but instead he played so poorly he was benched for Tom Savage. Osweiler was put back in for their two playoff games as Savage was sidelined with an injury, and head coach Bill O’Brien said he is unsure about what the future holds for the position.
One thing that is certain is they need to make some moves to fill some holes on their roster. The best way to do so would be through the draft. Following their Divisional Round defeat, they’ll be picking at No. 25 in the first round and own their selection in every round.
Here we look at a potential outcome for the Houston Texans with our full seven-round mock draft.
The biggest weakness for the Texans is their offense. Pretty much the whole thing outside of running back Lamar Miller. Narrowing it down to one spot though would be offensive line. The 2017 draft class isn’t ripe with offensive linemen and by the time Houston is on the board with the 25th pick the top guys will be gone.
So they grab another need with Alabama tight end O.J. Howard. Currently they have C.J. Fiedorowicz at the position and he had a breakout season with 54 receptions and four touchdowns. He also had some key drops, like the would-be touchdown that Osweiler put right in his hands in their playoff loss to New England.
Drafting Howard doesn’t eliminate Fiedorowicz from their plans, but rather gives them two weapons at the position. Houston usually keeps their fullback on the bench and employs two tight ends, but their options outside of Fiedorowicz aren’t well rounded. Both Ryan Griffin and Stephen Anderson are mainly oversized receivers, whereas Howard is as good a blocker as he is pass catcher.
Another bonus is Osweiler’s fondness for working the middle of the field and throwing to tight ends and slot receiver. That’s assuming, of course, he remains the starter.
As mentioned earlier, this draft may not be the best one in terms of needing an offensive tackle. Good news for the Texans is their need isn’t at left tackle since Duane Brown is still anchoring that position. Instead, they can use a guy to man the right tackle spot.
This season they began with Derek Newton playing the position, but he tore the patella tendon in both of his knees this season. It was an awful injury, and one that could threaten him resuming his career despite there being some “guarded optimism” according to the Houston Chronicle’s Aaron Wilson.
This injury has prevented NFL players who’ve suffered this injury before, including former Chicago Bears wide receiver Wendell Davis and former Cleveland Browns cornerback Gary Baxter, from resuming their careers. However, there is some guarded optimism surrounding Newton eventually playing again due to the improvements in medical science and his strong work ethic.
To protect against Newton being unable to resume his career, and just for improvements sake, the Texans grab Florida State tackle Roderick Johnson. The 6-7, 311-pound tackle has the size and strength to play both tackle positions eventually. Currently he projects better as a right tackle according to some scouts due to his slow footwork, but his strength has been pass protection which Houston sorely needs. Could be a great value pick here as the Texans rebuild their line.
The Texans keep beefing up their lines, this time addressing the defensive side. During the 2016 regular season the Texans boasted the best defense in terms of yards surrendered. They did so with defensive end J.J. Watt on injured reserve and a lack of depth on their defensive line.
Watt will be back in 2017, but starting nose tackle Vince Wilfork most likely will retire. 2016 fifth-round pick D.J. Reader showed signs of life as the season wore on, and he could be in line to start at the position, but they can’t rest there.
Drafting Charles Walker gives defensive coordinator Romeo Crennel one more massive lineman to employ. The 304-pound Walker is big enough to play in a 3-4 line, but not necessarily as an every-down nose tackle. Where he fits best is as an interior pass rusher when they get into four linemen sets.
In 2015 Walker recorded six sacks for the Sooners and was looking to be on his way to stardom. Injuries slowed him down in his final season as he played just four games. A concussion kept him out for about a month, and then with two games remaining on their schedule he opted to sit out the remainder of the year and prepare for the draft.
Some may worry his decision not to play is a knock on his character, which is why he falls to the third round. Could end up being Houston’s gain.
The Texans had some solid safety play out of Quintin Demps and Andre Hal. Demps recorded 55 tackles and six interceptions while Hal added another 48 tackles and two picks. Looking into 2017 Demps is a free agent, so it’s no lock he returns.
Behind those two they have Eddie Pleasant and Corey Moore. Neither looks to be a long-term answer at the position, so Houston may need to look towards the draft and hope to find someone they can turn to.
Here in the fourth, they grab BYU safety Kai Nacua. The four-year player is listed at 6-2 and 215 pounds, which gives him great height for the position. Much like Demps last season, Nacua has also had a history of being a ball hawk.
He recorded six interceptions in both his junior and senior seasons, giving him 14 for his career. Nacua also added 165 career tackles, with his best season in that regards being his junior campaign when he was credited with 66 tackles.
Nacua is also rather versatile. He played linebacker for the Cougars in addition to safety, which is evidence that he won’t shy away from contact at the next level. Playing as a linebacker can also help in pass rush as he took down opposing quarterbacks eight times in his career.
Last year Houston spent a fourth-round pick on San Jose State running back Tyler Ervin. He was an undersized speed back who served primarily as a return man. He was given just one rushing attempt and had five passes thrown his way all season, three of which he caught.
It’s apparent they see Ervin as mainly a special teams guy, so with this pick they go for a back they can turn to should Miller go down. Wisconsin running back Corey Clement is much bigger than Ervin at 5-11 and 227 pounds. He is also coming off a senior season in which he rushed for 1,375 yards and 15 touchdowns.
It was his lone 1,000-plus yard season, although he came close as a sophomore when he had 949 yards and nine touchdowns. His junior season saw him play just four games before returning to full-time action last season. He does still slide some thanks to having just the one big season.
In Houston, he would be a much better back for their packages that call for bigger runners. Currently they employ Alfred Blue off the bench and in many short-yardage runs, but he is inconsistent. Clement would be an upgrade there.
Houston again decides to get some depth along their defensive line and this time it’s by grabbing Alabama defensive tackle Dalvin Tomlinson. He was a situational player for the Tide for most of his career, splitting time with Jarran Reed.
In 2016 he became a full-time player and held up very well as a run-stuffer. Tomlinson recorded 62 tackles with 5.5 for a loss. He also recorded three sacks, but didn’t make as many plays behind the line of scrimmage as you typically want from a defensive lineman.
That’s why he’s available late in the draft. At this point teams are usually looking for anything they can work with, so a guy who weighs 305 pounds and played in a pro-style defense is an excellent gamble to make.
Tomlinson would have a chance to make the roster in Houston despite being a late round pick. They struggled with depth last season, and that was before hearing of Wilfork’s likely departure. They like Christian Covington, who they picked in the sixth round of the 2015 draft, but he has been having to play tackle more often than not. Getting players like Walker in round three and Tomlinson here could help them get Covington into better positions on the line.
Again, with late picks the Texans are just looking for something to work with. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. The best example recently of seventh-round picks developing into playmakers for the Texans would be Andre Hal, a cornerback selected in 2014 out of Vanderbilt.
In 2015 Hal was converted to safety and is now entrenched as the starter there. Maybe lightning can strike twice as Houston once again goes secondary with a seventh-rounder. Their choice is Brandon Facyson of Virginia Tech.
Facyson burst onto the scene in 2013 as a freshmen for the Hokies, recording 27 tackles, eight pass deflections and five interceptions. Since then, his production has decreased. While he was able to record 48 tackles his senior season with 11 pass deflections, he never again recorded an interception during his time at Tech.
Despite his three-year drought for picks, he has great length at 6-2 and weighs in right around 200 pounds. He has size, which you can’t teach and can be molded if the team is patient. He also could be a huge help as they may not be able to retain cornerback A.J. Bouye, who is a free agent.